Arrgh! If you’re a cat owner, you know about the infuriating habit many kitties have of knocking things over around the house with their naughty paws. But even though it might seem like your cat is purposefully trying to annoy you, that’s not the case, says Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s feline rehabilitation show, My Cat From Hell.
Find out what it really means when your cat’s always making messes around the house—plus, get the answers to nine more feline behavior questions from Galaxy—below.
Why does my cat constantly knocks things off the table or shelf?
“Your cat is curious, not purposefully aggravating. And, depending on how you look at it, bored! Think about a toddler who has been given crayons, but no paper. Hello, bedroom wall mural! Ask yourself, ‘Do we have enough cat toys?’ If the answer is yes, would he still rather bat a cup off the table? If so, it’s time to get new toys!”
Can cats really see in complete darkness? How does my cat zip around the house at night?
“Well, not total darkness, but cats can see clearly with only a sixth of the light we need to see. Because of their need to hunt in the low light of dusk and dawn, they’ve evolved to be able to see in darkness. This is how it works: The muscles around their iris can constrict to a slit in bright light and open very wide in low light, maximizing the available light. Then, the tapetum lucidum, a reflective membrane behind the cornea, takes the light and reflects it—in essence, squeezing every drop of light out of the dark! Speaking of which, that’s why your cat’s eyes seem to glow in the dark. Iit’s the tapetum, not the devil!”
Why is my cat always meowing? Is it because she’s upset?
“Cats have dozens of unique vocalizations. It is argued that the meow itself, however, is a sound invented for the benefit of humans. Cats will rarely, if ever, meow at each other. When they meow at humans, the rough translation is, ‘I know when I make this cute noise, treats fall from the sky.’”
Why can’t I find my cat for hours at a time?
“I know exactly how you feel—my cat Velouria has been known to find a spot so remote that I swear she’s either escaped or disappeared into a cosmic wormhole. Here’s why: Cats are prey animals. In the wild, they are constantly hunting and simultaneously being hunted. That said, finding a disappearing spot has a few major advantages. It increases the odds of surprising their prey and having a successful hunt. And by hiding from other predators, they decrease the odds of becoming prey themselves.”
If an indoor-only cat escapes, will it ever come back?
“Anecdotally, cats have incredible senses of direction. I have a cat who escaped on the first night after moving five miles across town. He was gone for a week and found his way through neighborhoods he’d never been in, back to my old apartment. The new tenants opened the door and he just waltzed in. That said, he would have never found his way back home to me without a collar, tag, and a microchip. Do not leave it up to their inner compass. Always microchip!”
If my cat waves her tail around, does that mean she’s happy?
“I can’t tell you how many people have gotten bitten by cats thinking that, like a dog, when they wag their tails, they are really happy to see you. In reality, most of the time, a cat wagging or swishing their tail means a great deal of agitation. More often than not, cats will ‘wag’ when confronted with something displeasing to them. So if you’re greeted with a waving tail, don’t pet the cat!”
If a cat sleeps on my lap, can I take that as a sign that she likes me? Or am I just a comfortable surface?
“Of course! In the world of cat, vulnerability means trust and love. Come to think of it, that’s true in our world too. By the way, it also means you have a warm lap, but hey, that’s just a bonus!”
My cat sometimes looks like she’s grimacing. Do cats show their emotions through facial expressions?
“In my opinion, cats show their emotions with every body part, not just their faces. Fear, vulnerability, distaste, anxiety and every stop in between can be seen in their faces, their whiskers, ears, pupils, tails … and yes, faces.“
If my cat keeps biting me, does that mean she doesn’t like me?
“Where do I start with this one? It sure means she doesn’t like something. That said, it could be over-stimulation, play aggression or simply just a way of saying, ‘Stop it, I don’t like that.’ But the million dollar question is, if you ask why she keeps biting you, maybe you need to reassess your approach. You know what they say: once bitten … forty times shy?”
Sometimes I can’t help but shout when my cat misbehaves. Is this a bad way to train her?
“Train her to hate you? Train her not to trust you? Sure. If you want your cat not to do something, what you’re really asking is for them to do something else. So if you want to keep a great, tight bond between you and your cat companion, when you say ‘no’ to something, make sure there is a’yes’ right behind it. For instance, if they’re scratching the couch, the ‘no’ is the double-sided sticky tape you put on the arm of the couch. The ‘yes’ is the scratching post right next to the arm of the couch. Bottom line: Get what you want by giving them what they want. Or at least make them think that’s what they want!”